Dark Wolf Page 5

He was a man nearly impossible to resist. Well. Okay. Her resistance to the idea of being his lifemate had faded completely. She just needed a little time to build confidence in herself that when the time came she would be able to be a full partner to him.

Skyler bit down hard on her lip, wincing a little when it hurt. She wasn’t there yet, not the physical part, but that didn’t matter, nor would it ever if he didn’t survive.

Josef’s teasing nudge nearly sent her flying. He groaned. “There she goes again, off to la-la land. She’s taken to doing that lately, Paul. You’ll be talking to her and she seems like a normal person and then she gets that hokey, moon face, all gooey-eyed and goofy and she drifts off somewhere. I think before we do anything else we need to get her to a doctor and fast.”

“Oh, you’re going to need a doctor.” Skyler retaliated with a swift kick to his shins, and as he turned to flee, she leapt up on his back, pretending to punch his ribs.

“Help, help, she’s gone mad.” Josef spun in circles as if trying to get her off his back, all the while holding her safely to him.

“Come on, you goofballs. We can’t be certain someone hasn’t figured out yet that Sky is not where she said she’d be,” Paul cautioned. “All either Francesca or Gabriel has to do is try to touch base with her.”

Josef stopped his wild spinning and bent his knees to ease Skyler to the ground. He glanced around him, suddenly wary.

“I don’t think they’ll find us this fast, bro,” Paul said.

“No. Not Francesca and Gabriel,” Josef said, stepping in front of Skyler and sweeping her behind him with one arm. “But something has.”

“I can help,” Skyler hissed. “I’m very adept at all kinds of defense.” She peeked around Josef. She had met and faced all kinds of monsters and they scared the hell out of her, but she wasn’t about to show fear to either of her friends—not when they were risking their lives in her rather desperate plan to take Dimitri back from his captors.

Paul closed in on the other side. “Pipe down, lunatic, at least let us see what’s coming at us.”

“The coffin’s in the truck, do you want to try to just drive away?” Skyler suggested hopefully.

“I’d rather meet them out in the open,” Paul said. “Josef?”

Josef held up his hand, fingers spread wide. “Five of them. Punks. They saw the customs guy close up shop and they like to come see what might have been left behind. Two of them are pretty high. All of them have been drinking. No vampires.”

Skyler caught Josef’s arm. “Let’s just go then. Five humans with knives and chains and maybe guns can still slow us down. Let’s get out of here.”

“I don’t think they have any intention of letting us take the truck, Sky,” Josef said. “They’ve got their eyes on our ride.”

Skyler sighed. Josef and Paul were spoiling for a fight. They both had pent-up energy as well as suppressed anger toward their prince and the other hunters. If she was being entirely truthful, she did as well. She was angry. Furious. Dimitri deserved so much more loyalty than his people were showing him. All three of them had been kept out of the loop, too young to count, when the very person who was her other half was in danger. It wasn’t right. She was Dimitri’s lifemate and at the very least, she should be kept informed at all times, not dismissed as if she were a child and wouldn’t understand.

She took a deep breath, knowing that the only one of the three of them who looked as if they could handle themselves was Paul. Josef, they would dismiss. He was tall and lanky, but hadn’t developed the outward muscle that might impress a group of toughs like the ones posturing. Josef, of course, was the one that everyone should be afraid of, but he looked like the techie he was.

She listened to the trash talk and gave a little sigh. The world sometimes seemed the same everywhere she went. London, South America, the United States, even her beloved Romania had the same types that would much rather rob than earn.

You’re too soft, Sky, Josef said. They’d kill you for those chic boots you’re wearing.

The worst part of it was Josef was probably right. He could read their thoughts. She could, too, if she chose, which she didn’t. Sometimes she just wanted to pretend that most people were really good, like Gabriel and Francesca, not the monsters she’d known as a child. Living in a world where she knew vampires and monsters existed didn’t help her fantasy.

The smell of the five approaching them reached her first. Two were definitely on drugs. The reek of alcohol was strong, not a good sign. Her experience with alcohol wasn’t the best. Men who were drunk definitely had an enlarged sense of bravado and very impaired judgment. Most likely, these five would think they could do anything.

She watched them come close, noting the two hanging back were clearly drunk. They couldn’t walk a straight line, but one had a gun. She could see him stroking the barrel, and to her, he appeared the most dangerous. She kept her gaze glued to him.

“Well, look what we found?” the self-appointed leader said. He pointed to Skyler and crooked his little finger. “Come here.”

Josef smiled at them, deliberately showing his longer, sharper teeth. “You’d better leave while you have the chance.”

“No one’s talking to you,” the leader snapped. “Get over here,” he added, his hand on his knife.

“She’s not going anywhere,” Josef said, his eyes taking on a red glow. “I’m giving you one last warning, although I am a little hungry. I just woke up, but you all reek of alcohol and I’m opposed to drinking on so many levels.”

“Look at that ride, Gustoff.” The one directly to the right of the leader indicated the truck. “And a cool coffin. I want that.”

“That’s my bedroom,” Josef said. “And I didn’t invite you in.”

Gustoff had had enough of dealing with Josef. He drew his knife and immediately the others followed suit. Skyler wasn’t so much worried about the knives as she was the gun the drunken man pulled. He pointed it straight at Josef. She concentrated on the object. The gun seemed to take on a life of its own. Slowly the smirk faded from the drunk’s face as the gun began to turn on him. No matter how hard he tried to turn his hand back, the gun kept coming around until it was pointed at him.

“Gustoff!” he exclaimed.

Gustoff glanced over his shoulder. “Stop messing around.”

“I’m not,” the drunken man insisted. His hand shook. He tried to open it, but his palm was firmly latched around the gun, his finger locked on the trigger. “It’s going to shoot me. Do something.”

Gustoff scowled. “Petr, help that idiot.”

Petr sprang into action, grabbing at the gun. He couldn’t budge it, nor could he remove the drunk’s hand from it.

Alarmed, Gustoff turned back to Josef, his knife in front of him, blade up.

“Hey, don’t look at me, that’s all her,” Josef said, indicating Skyler. “She’s got a mean streak. Me, I’m the nice one.” As he spoke buttons began popping off of Gustoff’s shirt. The seams of his jeans split.

Paul snickered as the pants fell down around Gustoff’s ankles. “Nice one, Josef.”

“Get them!” Gustoff shouted, furious.

The others rushed them, knives drawn. One swung a heavy metal chain. Skyler stepped back behind Paul and Josef, extending her concentration to the other weapons. This time she changed the temperature so that even as the drunken fools wielded them, the knives and chain began to grow warm and then hot.

Paul slammed his hand down hard on the wrist of the one coming at him, gripping the knife hand and turning it up and to the side as he stepped forward. The man went down hard, an audible crack signaling a broken wrist. Paul kicked the knife away and delivered another kick to the man’s head.

Two rushed Josef. He dissolved just as they reached him, leaving them standing looking at one another. One of the two had been swinging his chain, but now the metal links glowed red in the night, a bizarre streak of fire spinning over his head. The chain was suddenly wrenched away from behind and just as fast looped around the man’s body. He screamed as the burning hot links touched his skin.

The remaining man spun around, trying to find Josef, nearly hysterical with fear. The metal of his knife began to glow as the temperature rose. He opened his hand fast and the knife fell to the ground.

Paul was on him immediately, smashing his fist into the man’s mouth, driving him backward. He followed up his advantage with a front kick to the stomach, using his steel-toed boots.

Josef emerged out of thin air directly in front of Gustoff. The leader stabbed at him, but Josef caught his wrist in a deadly grip and spun him around, so that his arm was locked around Gustoff’s throat. He was enormously strong, his grip unbreakable. He bent his head to Gustoff’s pounding pulse.

“I haven’t eaten in a while,” he whispered. “And I need blood to survive. Too bad you came along and didn’t heed my warning.”

He sank his teeth deep into that drumming beat, allowing Gustoff to feel burning pain. Fear laced his blood with adrenaline, helping to wipe out the bitter, disgusting taste of alcohol. Gustoff screamed and screamed, horrified at the vampire draining him of his life force.

His band of toughs went rigid, just watching in absolute terror.

You’re always so good at theatrics, Skyler said, trying not laugh. You’re putting on quite the show for them.

Josef’s eyes were all red now, glowing like twin embers in the dark. He enhanced Gustoff’s looks, making him grow paler with each passing moment. His body appeared to begin to convulse. Josef dropped him to the ground. Two thin trickles of blood ran from his mouth to his chin.

Skyler rolled her eyes. I can’t keep this gun pointed at him forever.

Josef suddenly turned his head toward the drunk who held the gun. His gaze fell on the man. “You look tasty.”

“I’m not. I’m not.” The drunk shook his head and tried to stagger back.

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